Windows 7 : Migrating User Profiles (part 1) - Understanding Migration Circumstances

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Unless your organization uses roaming user profiles, the computer that a person uses probably has important data stored locally. Migrating users from the Windows XP or Windows Vista operating systems to Windows 7, or even migrating them from one computer running Windows 7 to another, means that you must get all important data from one local computer to the next. You can view user profile data by opening the System item within Control Panel and then opening the User Profiles area of the Advanced tab, as shown in Figure 1. You can use this tool to copy user profile data to another location, but you cannot use this tool to import user profile data.

User profile data

Figure 1. User profile data

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To learn more about how to implement Roaming User Profiles in your organization, consult the following TechNet reference:

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To learn more about customizing user profiles in Windows 7, consult the following reference on the Microsoft Web site:

When you are considering the migration of a large number of users from one platform to another, you must address the following factors:

  • Choosing what type of migration you will perform. Will you be migrating users to new computers, a task known as PC replacement, or will you be upgrading their current computers, a task known as a PC refresh?

  • Choosing where migrated data will be stored during the migration. If you are moving a large number of users, you may need to use a network migration store. This can cause problems if you are not careful about cataloging the location of each migrated user profile store.

  • Choosing an appropriate migration tool. In small migrations, you may choose to use Windows Easy Transfer, a tool built into the Windows 7 operating system. In larger migrations, you are more likely to choose the User State Migration Tool, a tool available as a free download from Microsoft.

If you are moving users of a small number of computers, you should consider using Windows Easy Transfer rather than other tools. Windows Easy Transfer is a utility built into the Windows 7 operating system that allows you to move user profile data from one location to another. The tool is wizard driven, which simplifies use and allows migration of the most common user profile components. You can use Windows Easy Transfer to migrate user profile data from computers running the Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 operating system to computers running the Windows 7 operating system. The drawback of Windows Easy Transfer is that you cannot automate the utility, which makes migrating user profile data for a large number of computers prohibitively time consuming.

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To learn more about the Windows Easy Transfer, consult the following Web page:

Choosing a Migration Type

The nature of your task influences the migration type you ought to choose. Depending on whether you are migrating user profile data because you are replacing an existing computer’s operating system or because you are moving a user from one computer to another, one type is more suitable than another. These are the two basic types of migration:

  • Wipe-and-load migration. This is appropriate when the current hardware can support a new operating system. Sometimes people refer to this as a PC Refresh scenario. For example, you are deploying the Windows 7 operating system to a group of users whose computers are presently running the Windows XP operating system. In most cases with a wipe-and-load migration, you move user data, format the hard disk drive, and then perform a clean installation of the new operating system, importing the new data after the clean installation completes. You can use the local hard disk as a migration store in a wipe-and-load migration. You can keep the data on the computer during the migration or use a remote store, such as a network location or a removable storage device.

  • Side-by-side migration. This is appropriate when you are replacing the user’s current computer with a new computer. People also refer to this type of migration as a PC Replacement scenario. For this type, you need to use an intermediate store for the migrated data that is accessible to both the current and replacement computer. This intermediate store might be a network location or could be a removable storage device.

You can perform an upgrade only when users already have Windows Vista installed on their original computer. Upgrades are possible only across versions of the operating system that support the same processor architecture. For example, you can upgrade an x86 version of Windows Vista to an x86 version of Windows 7, but you cannot upgrade an x86 version of Windows Vista to an x64 version of Windows 7. To transition from an x86 to an x64 edition requires that you perform a migration rather than an upgrade.

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To learn more about common migration scenarios, consult the following article on TechNet:

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